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Metrogenesis

What Is Metrogenesis?

Metrogenesis is a description for the theoretical process of building a city from a bare space of land, a SimCity for reality.   The closest this has come to actual application are the creation of company towns in support of industry, which were made from scratch to support the social, environmental, and comfort-related needs of an army of workers.  This includes not just the building of infrastructure, but the development of community bonds, nurturing of government and leadership, and the economic development to support the city's basic existence.



New-Town-In-Town

Riverside Plaza in Minneapolis was an attempt to reclaim neighborhoods leveled during Urban Renewal.   The New-Town-In-Town program was to try and return affordable housing and livable space to these decaying neighborhoods by re-imagining the "new town movement", while also bringing arts, culture, education, and recreation to the thousands of residents -- unfortunately, the wrong parts happened first.   The large amount of affordable housing was built but a variety of factors prevented the culture from following, resulting in creating the sort of high-rise slum the creators were trying to avoid.

 

The Internet For Dictators

Let's say, you're ruler of some small land, with your subjects suitably under your thumb, but Machiavelli's The Prince just isn't cutting it in the high tech world of today.  Laurier Rochon has published The Dictator's Practical Internet Guide to Power Retention, a treatise on how a fascist regent can get a handle on the Internet before things get out of control.   The instructions are heavily influenced by the Arab Spring, with a focus on Facebook and Twitter as the sources of all evil, but I'll bet if you've gotten to be a dictator you're smarter than a 5th grader and can transcribe the threats of free public communication into the technology of your time.     On the other hand, if you're a member of a gung-ho rebellion, the Practical Internet Guide will be helpful to your movement, because, overall, the result is that once these technologies have taken hold, Pandora's box cannot be re-sealed.

 

Broad Buildings

Broad Sustainable Buildings in China has cracked the code for Lego-like construction of tall buildings using mass-produced parts assembled on-site.  This week, the news has been abuzz over a six-story building being built in nine days, but just a few months ago they did a thirty-story building in only fifteen.  Their excuse is that there was rain and a holiday during their construction of the six-story building; otherwise it should have gone up in 24 hours.    Broad's construction objectives merge two things not usually paired:  ecology and the company town.  Broad Town is a community built by the company for the benefit of its workers, demonstrating the ecologically-friendly products that the company produces.  The theory espoused by Broad is that by manufacturing modular building materials in factories, they can control energy usage and reduce the time it takes to build a building, saving energy and man-hours, out of energy-efficient factory-made parts.  If there's any country that needs quick, energy-conserving construction of living spaces, it's China, so it's no wonder they're on top of things.  I wonder about the longevity of such a building, but being modular, in theory deconstructing or replacing parts should be a bit easier than in welded steel and poured concrete buildings that are the norm for the rest of the world.

 

Strong Towns

The Strong Towns group has published a small booklet called "Curbside Chat", which gives a nice overview about how the current methods of metrogenesis, focused on sprawling new development and public infrastructure overspending, are going the wrong way about things.    The booklet shows how the promise of new property taxes isn't the golden egg it appears to be: the support the city will have to provide over the years will far exceed the benefit gained by new taxes.  That is, if you're state isn't stupid enough to ban property taxes altogether, but that's North Dakota's problem.  The booklet doesn't say that property taxes are good or bad, either way: the goal is that a city needs to look at long-term investment, and not focus on a series of short-term gains which are offset by long-term expense.   Giving developers deals in order to gain predicted taxes, while taking on additional utilities and street maintenance, is stealing from the future.   The booklet does go into some more Green-ish aspects, such as community agriculture, which isn't necessarily a fix for food scarcity nor an easy place to find workers willing to work for cost-effective hours and wages, is a bit on the edge, but the rest of the booklet is square on giving cities a fiscally-conservative goal while producing a progressive end, both of which make me optimistic for my community.

 

Slab City

Three miles east of Niland, California, a stone's-throw from the Salton Sea and near Salvation Mountain,  is the remains of the Camp Dunlap Marine Training facility.  The camp is long gone, leaving behind cement slabs where the buildings once stood.   RV squatters have put the land to good use, renaming it Slab City.

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